I have a theory as a parent that when one child is thriving the other is just surviving.  I can’t prove this scientifically but anecdotally I know it to be true.

Without realizing it I prepared for this before I brought baby number two home from the hospital.  Remember I kept telling myself—when one is smiling one will be crying.  Growth is always uneven.

I knew it then and I know it now, but after all these years it’s still hard to deal with.

When I ran into a friend the other day at the grocery store who asked me how the boys were doing I used my thriving-surviving line to describe things.  She laughed and confirmed this has been her experience too.

“It makes you question yourself as a mother though,” I said.

“Of course,” she said.  “That’s natural.”

Born to encourage people she went on to completely dispel my doubts.  Her counsel was especially meaningful because she’s worked with my kids in the schools.   It was exactly the pep talk I needed.  I left the store believing God had sent her shopping just for my sake.

Buoyed by her encouragement I felt invincible until a few days later when another friend said the exact opposite.  In fact they went so far as to suggest I was the problem.  It felt like a cruel joke.  One person propped me up only so the next could knock me down. Doubt once again had the upper hand.

In a desperate attempt to distract myself after this beating I decided to work on an ongoing project at home I knew I could be successful with.  It involves sorting and archiving years of pictures.

Flipping through file after file I found a picture of my first penny jar.  In it were two years of finds. Hundreds of pennies—each one meant to encourage my faith.  I stopped sorting and asked God how is it that faith can be such a fleeting thing?

The answer came the next day.  Walking into an appointment with a specialist to talk about my struggling son I heard the Holy Spirit answer my question.

“You can’t have a lasting faith in me unless you trust yourself too.  With the pennies I’m not always trying to remind you to trust me.  Sometimes the message is I trust you.”

I stopped in my tracks and thought back to so many finds where that message was probably missed. My insecurity as a parent was so deep it kept me from believing that God might actually be giving me his vote of confidence.

Like I would say to one of my kids, “you got this”, He was saying the same to me.  Not because I can rely on myself but because I’ve chosen to rely on Him.  It’s not a paradox it’s a principle.  Trust begets trust.  “Abide in me and I in you.” (John 15:4)

It was the single greatest penny epiphany I’ve ever had.  With no time to mull it over I went into my appointment asking God if that was true.  “Really Lord, you trust me?”

I coasted on auto-pilot through greeting the doctor and being ushered into his conference room but my question was still hanging unanswered.

When he pulled out the chair for me to sit down God spoke.  On the table right in front of my chair was a penny.  I went from disbelief to shock in a breath.

“Did you leave this for me?” I asked.


“This,” I said pointing.


I could see he was beginning to think I was weird.

Our conversation finally shifted to the reason I’d come.  We talked for an hour and I left inspired, encouraged, and hopeful but also with a second penny.  It had been hiding under the pad of paper he was making notes on.  To me it screamed don’t second guess this—I do trust you Kären.

For the first time in all my years of penny finding I felt God’s hand pat me on the back.  Not to puff me up with pride but to remind me that all the faith I’ve put in Him has been equally matched by the faith He has in me.

It was empowering to say the least.  Because to believe God trusts you, makes it possible to trust He really will work through you.  Man’s confidence can only take you as far as the echo of his voice.  God’s will run the race for you and let’s face it parenting isn’t a sprint it’s a marathon.  One you need supernatural encouragement to run.











  1. Oh my! I have one child in a season of reaping the blessings of their efforts and one in a season of struggle to begin their journey! Thank you for the new perspective! I never have doubted that God has his hand on you. From here it appears that you have a sincere heart to do the Lord’s will and I expect great things will continue to happen as a result!
    I will make every effort to see myself the same way! Thank you for being such a wonderful friend. I remember the day we met, and I knew that I would learn so much from you. I had no idea how many years and in how many ways I would be blessed by your friendship!
    You and your family are always in my prayers and I thank you for keeping us in your prayers also!
    Hugs, Nancy

    • Nancy…you are always so kind and I treasure your friendship. I remember when my boys were so young and on very hard days you always had an encouraging word for me. You understood how sensitive they were which was a gift to me. It’s a privilege to pray for you and yours.

  2. As I read your words regarding our children being in different spaces in their growing up years…I am reminded of somethings I said over and over back then…regarding my kids. “There is always someone hanging out of the nest”. That’s what I called it….the phenomenon of there always being someone not thriving…in fact…barely surviving.

    • Joan what a beautiful way to put it. I think I’ve even heard you say it before but the reminder is timely. It’s a much funnier and kinder way to look at it. You had a very large nest of children and you still take care of them so well even as adults.

  3. When we teach our children to swim they will stand on the edge of the pool and jump into our arms in the water. I see their fear, yet they trust us. Soon their fear turns into pure enjoyment. God has given us all of the tools, to build our trust in ourselves, as long as we follow his blueprint. It is that relationship which is difficult for me; I like to use the tools God has given me, with out using his blueprints.

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